(Ottawa, ON) – Following a report released today by the office of the Ontario Chief Coroner, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says urgent action is required to implement recommendations by working with families and First Nations.
“Our first thoughts are with the children and their families because they are the focus of all the work,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “This recent report includes findings that are as tragic as they are familiar. Our children and our families deserve better supports and care. We need action now on the recommendations by working with First Nations families and all levels of government with a focus on prevention and service coordination rather than reaction and apprehension. There are efforts underway to reform the child welfare system with First Nations leading the way, but we need to act now to end discrimination, meet the real needs on the ground and close the gaps.”
The report, titled Safe With Intervention: The Report of the Expert Panel on the Deaths of Children and Youth in Residential Placements, follows a year-long review on the deaths of 12 youth who died while in residential placements in the care of Ontario’s child welfare system between January 2014 and July 2017.
According to the report, of the 12 young people who died in the care of Ontario’s child welfare system 8 were Indigenous, including six First Nations youth from Nishnawbe Aski territory.
“Our children are our most precious resource and it is appalling and disheartening to learn that their cries for help were not heard,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who leads the child welfare portfolio at AFN. “This report shows the voices of these young people were ignored and speaks to the failure of the systems to meet the needs of children. This is unacceptable and needs to change. Child care isn’t just about basic shelter. It requires a holistic approach for First Nations children that ensures a strong connection to their cultures and nations.”
The expert panel convened by Ontario Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer was struck in 2017 and included seven experts in fields including psychiatric care, mental health, and services for Indigenous youth. The Panel heard from nine of the 12 families, along with leadership from several First Nations in Ontario.
The full report is available here: https://www.provincialadvocate.on.ca/publications/external-reports/safe-with-intervention.pdf
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information, please contact:
Jenna Young Castro
613-241-6789, ext. 201
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 282